If you’re anything like me, buying groceries is one of your biggest budget blowout areas. If we save on groceries, we’ll free up plenty of cash.
I belong to quite a few budgeting Facebook groups (‘course I do) and I’m always amazed when someone pipes up that they spend something like $112 to feed a family of six for a full week. What now?
Of course, these kinds of posts are really just major humble brags (“Can anyone help me save on groceries, last week I spent $57.50 and there’s only eight of us in the family!”, etc). But it does raise the point that we should all be more preoccupied with saving as much as we can at the supermarket.
Luckily I’ve picked up plenty of tips left by kind people wanting to help reduce the bragger’s tiny, tiny grocery bill. Here’s how those tips are helping me save on groceries. Hopefully there’s some gold in here for you, too.
1. Make a menu plan
Like all good things in life, it all starts with some basic planning. If you can plot out what you’re fam is going to eat for the week, you won’t end up wasting money on food that will only go to waste. Plan for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks and make a shopping list based on your menu.
2. Cook from scratch
If you make the majority of your meals from scratch, you’ll save plenty. Don’t waste money having someone else make the spaghetti bolognese for you. It’s cheaper and tastes way better, to make the dish yourself.
If you think ‘cooking from scratch’ sounds difficult or time consuming or even overwhelming, fear not. It doesn’t take long at all to build a few skills in the kitchen and it’s 100 per cent worthwhile for both your health and you savings.
If you need some help in the cooking department, start here:
- Nat’s What I Reckon – warning, this YouTube channel is very sweary, very funny and very delicious.
- Jamie Oliver – his Ministry of Food recipes are step-by-step for newbies.
- SBS Food – their ‘easy recipes’ catalogue will soon have you cooking dishes from all over the world.
3. Eat less meat
No matter how much it’s on special, eating a lot of meat is always going to cost you more than a vego diet. Lentils and beans are cheap, cheap, cheap.
If you’re a committed carnivore, don’t freak out about this one. Just ease back gently. Try making one dinner a week vegetarian (try my own very delicious vego cottage pie to start).
If even that’s too much, try eating less meat by subbing out half the meat for beans in your favourite recipe. Chances are you’ll hardly notice there’s more kidney beans than beef in your nachos.
4. Shop your pantry first
When you’re making your meal plan, you’ll save on groceries if you don’t buy what you already have. So shop your pantry, fridge and freezer first. Try to plan your meals around what you need to use up. That way nothing goes to waste and you won’t need to spend as much that week.
There are sites and apps that make shopping your pantry super easy. Try one of these:
5. Stick to your shopping list
Unless something generally expensive that you eat a lot of is 25 per cent off (I’m looking at you, Sirena tuna), try and stick to the shopping list you created off the back of your meal plan. Having a rule that you’ll stay on list means you won’t be tempted by food you really don’t need to be buying. Step away from the half-price Tim Tams.
6. Don’t shop hungry
When you’re hungry, those Tim Tams are going in the trolley, no matter what.
7. Shop online if you can
As long as you’re not paying a motza for delivery, shopping online can save you plenty.
You can quickly check what’s on special before you do your menu plan, then buy only what you need. Shopping online is so tedious that you’re less likely to stray from your list.
Plus, online you avoid all the canny in-store marketing hacks that have seen shopper spending too much for years. Like sticking expensive brands at eye level or blasting “Raspberry Beret” out of the shop speakers when raspberries are currently $197 a punnet.
If a ‘click and collect’ option is available to you, shopping online will cost you no more than heading into the store. An added bonus is you’ll save your time as well as your money.
8. Shop wherever it’s cheapest
There are plenty of apps that will compare the cost of your shopping list at major Australian supermarkets. So you can figure out which one is the best to shop at depending on what you want to buy. Try one of these:
- Trolley Saver – compares what’s on your grocery list across Coles, Woolies and Aldi
- Half Price – lists everything that’s 50 per cent off at Coles and Woolies.
- Grocery Getter – tells you how much you’ll save at the major supermarkets based on your shopping list.
Basic tip: if you’ve got an Aldi nearby, just shop there. CHOICE has found that it’s consistently the cheapest place to shop.
9. Buy in bulk when things are on special
About that tuna – buy big when it’s on sale. Anything canned will last for months, so if it’s something you regularly eat it makes sense to stock up. While you’ll be adding to this week’s bill, you’ll save on groceries overall and that’s the plan.
10. Buy in bulk even when they’re not
For food you eat regularly, try to buy the biggest packet you can find. A quick check of the unit price for four kilos of flour versus one kilo will instantly show you how much this can save you over the long term. Don’t go crazy, though. You’ll need to be able to store the bigger quantities and just remember that it’s no saving if you can’t consume the lot before the use by date rolls around.
11. Go for store brands
Many of a supermarket’s own-brand products are made in Australia. Sometimes in exactly the same factory as the more expensive brands. To ease you in, try a different generic brand each week to see if you like it.
12. Shop using discounted gift cards
Whenever you see a gift card for your favourite supermarket on special, buy up big. Then simply use the gift card to buy your groceries. You can save 5 or 10 per cent off your total grocery bill this way.
You can get access to permanently discounted gift cards through organisations like the NRMA, RACQ, AGL, Macquarie Bank and RAA. All offer their members discounts on gift cards that are redeemable at most supermarkets.
13. Join supermarket rewards programs
Both Coles and Woolworths have a rewards program that can help you save on groceries. Coles has Flybuys and Woolworths has Everyday Rewards, both give you access to money off vouchers, rewards and discounts off fuel.
14. ‘Use it up’ and save
Join OzHarvest and vow to Use It Up. They’ll send you some cute tape to stick on the food you need the family to move. That way, when it’s snack time someone might reach for the yoghurt nearing its expiry date instead of the brand new tub of hommos.
15. Shop one day later each week
To really save on groceries, try to make each ‘weekly shop’ last a week and a day. Over the course of seven weeks, you’ll have saved a full week of grocery money.
Do the Use It Up thing above and get inventive with your meals. You might end up using corn thins to house your sandwich instead of bread, but that just might turn out to be your new favourite lunch!